26 Times Gregg Popovich's Greatness Went Beyond Basketball

Gregg Popovich
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San Antonio Spurs
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9. The Spurs' Famous Team Dinners, Win or Lose

The most well-known off-court activity Gregg Popovich has been known for is unquestionably his team dinners. Getting his group together for some fraternizing away from the game has been used by others since, such as his protege who went on to win a title with the Milwaukee Bucks, Mike Budenholzer.

The most famous dinner Pop treated the team to came after the Spurs' crushing Game 6 defeat in the 2013 NBA Finals. "The dinner/breakfast turned into a therapy session," said Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News.

During the recent DeMar DeRozan era in San Antonio, he talked about the dinners.

“Win, lose or draw, after a game, if we’re staying over in a city, we got a team dinner," he said. "We’re going to break bread. We’re going to have a good night -- a good evening. You know, we’re family.”

10. Coach Pop's Generosity Becomes Legendary

Continuing on the dinner theme, Coach Popovich's generosity toward restaurant staff, his players, and even former players that happened to be dining at a nearby table gained a lot of attention over the decades.

In a 2020 column for ESPN, Baxter Holmes did a deep dive into the team dinners that helped build a dynasty.

"In 2017, he reportedly left a $5,000 tip on a bill of $815.73 at a restaurant in Memphis, Tennessee, but one restaurant owner who's served Popovich many times reports that he'll often tip $10,000 on a 'nothing meal,' order bottles of wine for the kitchen staff, and, upon leaving the restaurant, pull out a thick wad of cash and ask that it be delivered directly to said staff."

Pop also made it a point to cover the checks of any former Spurs he happened to see dining in the same restaurant, whether they were with him or not.

"It created a cat-and-mouse game where former Spurs tried to glean -- through the hotel concierge or friends in Pop's circle -- where he was dining that night. Then, like clockwork, they just so happened to arrive at the same restaurant for a free meal."

San Antonio Spurs
Robert Horry / Lisa Blumenfeld/GettyImages

11. "I Don't Think There's a Coach That Would Do That."

I've extensively covered the grudge Robert Horry has had against the Spurs since he felt he was discarded by them at the end of his career. In listening to his podcast often for this job, I can safely say he seems to harbor more contempt for the organization than just about any former Spur I know of.

With all that said, even Horry still has spoken highly about Coach Popovich's character in the past and has been touched by his kindness. When he was asked once to compare Pop to Phil Jackson, he had a lot to say.

“Phil wouldn’t really talk to you,” started Horry. “[He] would just come and talk to you [about] basketball — [say] read the book that I gave to you for a Christmas present. Pop would come and talk to you, take you to dinner, buy you a glass of wine,” said Horry. Pop would really try to get to know you.”

Horry then told a story of how Pop's treatment of him as a person moved him.

"I remember when my daughter got sick and we were doing training camp, I left and went home and then I came back,” said Horry. “He was like, ‘What are you doing here? Is she out of the hospital?’ I was like ‘no.’ [He said] get out of here. I don’t want to see your face until she’s home and she’s 100%. I’m like, ‘what?’ He sent me back home."

“He did that before social media and before anybody would know about the things he would do," he continued. "It was just a special feeling. I don’t think there’s a coach out there that would do that."